"But love your enemies, do good and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great...Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful." (Luke 6:35-36)
I mean, I know about, "BE holy, as I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16) and
"BE still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10)
and even, "BE transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).
But somehow BE merciful completely passed me by. I think the bigger reason this verse halted my parade through Luke was the five-words phrase in the previous verse - "hoping for nothing in return."
Luke and I tromped through familiar ground with the words, "love your enemies, do good, and lend." But when He got to, "hoping for nothing in return," my walk in the woods became a march through the wilderness. I no longer knew where we were headed.
You see, previously Luke explained the difference between a Christian and a sinner: Even sinners love those who love in return. Sinners do good to those who do good to them. Sinners even lend to those who repay in full. So what makes a Christian? Those five scary words "hoping for nothing in return."
True Christianity loves friends and enemies, with no retribution. True Christians do good with no hope of return. True Christians lend without expecting any repayment. And there's no getting around this one, friends - lending without expecting repayment is really giving. All lending in the name of Christ is a FREE give-away.
So here's where it gets daunting. Not only do I have little to zero hope of ever truly loving, doing, or giving freely, but doesn't this also mean (and forgive me if I get struck down by lightening as I say this), but doesn't this mean that God loves me, does me good, and gives to me hoping for nothing in return?
In the words of singer/songwriter Jeremy Riddle, I must confess. I wonder how great is God's love and how great is His faithfulness. Will He really still love me when I do what I do best - give Him virtually nothing in return for His mercy?
For this is what hoping for nothing in return really boils down to - acting as our heavenly Father acts. Acting with mercy.
I have heard mercy and grace described this way. Grace is getting what you don't deserve. While mercy is not getting what you do deserve. Grace offers dessert after a 'yucky' meal because your big brother finished your plate for you. Grace offers:
- His Word (do I deserve full, unrestricted access to the Truth that sets me free?)
- His Son (do I deserve the death He died for me?)
- His Spirit (do I deserve His quiet whisper when I stomp my feet in sin?)
- My faithful husband (this I definitely do not deserve)
- Our four precious children - souls who call me, "Momma." (do I deserve their devotion?)
- His Healing (do I deserve rescue from the brokenness I create?)
- And this...just this from my own back yard...
|(do I really deserve Beauty?)|
Mercy, on the other hand, offers no such thing. In fact, mercy offers no-thing and yet everything worth possessing:
- No condemnation - Romans 8:1
- No punishment for sin - Romans 4:15
- No guilty fear. 1 John 4:18
- No stain or wrinkle or any other blemish - Eph 5:27
- No accusation to stand against us - Col 1:22
- No height nor depth nor anything else in all creation to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus - Rom 8:39
- No hope of ever receiving what my sin rightfully deserves - death, even death on a cross.